The Scottish Isles – Whisky and Wildlife from the Hebrides to the Shetlands (Northbound)

The Scottish Isles – Whisky and Wildlife from the Hebrides to the Shetlands (Northbound)

The Scottish Isles – Whisky and Wildlife from the Hebrides to the Shetlands (Northbound)

The Scottish Isles – Whisky and Wildlife from the Hebrides to the Shetlands (Northbound)

Travel information 13 days MS Spitsbergen
Price from $ 6,983
$ 6,285
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

Discover the rugged and magnificent isles of Scotland as we sail from Glasgow to Bergen, sampling unique malts and spotting amazing wildlife along the way, including plenty of birds.

Diverse destinations & distinctive drams

From Glasgow, we’ll head over to industrious Belfast and the Isle of Man before turning north to the Inner Hebrides and the ‘whisky island’ of Islay, with its nine distilleries. We’ll set foot on mystical Iona, with its famous Abbey, while wildlife lovers will marvel at the rich birdlife on the tiny nearby Treshnish Isles

Our next planned destination is Loch Scavaig on the Isle of Skye—said to be the most evocative Highland scene you can imagine. Peaceful Canna awaits us, featuring monuments and enchanting scenery, before we journey to the Outer Hebrides.

Wild islands & wonderful wildlife

You’ll love remote St Kilda. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was deserted by humans but rewilded by an astonishing number of birds. On Isle of Lewis and Harris, you’ll discover pristine beaches, tweed workshops, and the mysterious Callanish Standing Stones.

Next, our expedition cruise heads to the Orkneys, where we’ll find whisky in Kirkwall that traces its roots back to the Vikings. Lastly, we’ll explore the remote Shetland Islands, where archeological treasures await us on lonely Fair Isle, before crossing over to beautiful Bergen, Norway, where our journey ends.

The Scottish Isles – Whisky and Wildlife from the Hebrides to the Shetlands (Northbound) The Scottish Isles – Whisky and Wildlife from the Hebrides to the Shetlands (Northbound)
  • Day 1
    Glasgow (Greenock), Scotland

    Setting sail from the stylish city of culture

    Estimated time of departure is 10:00 PM

    Our expedition to the isles of Scotland and beyond begins in Glasgow. If you have time, we recommend arriving before embarkation day and getting to know this elegant city. Set against a backdrop of splendid Victorian architecture, Glasgow has reinvented itself as a stylish and exciting city, full of museums, galleries, and lively spots to eat, drink, and shop. Add an extra night and get to know the proud city of Edinburgh, uniting history and beauty. Then, see the architectural gems with the magnificent 12th-century cathedral and revolutionary Art Nouveau buildings in Glasgow during our optional Pre-Program.

    Your comfortable expedition ship, MS Spitsbergen, will be ready and waiting for you. Once you board the ship and check in, you’ll receive your complimentary wind and water-resistant expedition jacket. This may come in handy with the unpredictable weather we can expect to encounter along the way. Take time to settle into your cabin and explore the ship before attending a mandatory pre-departure safety drill.

    You’ll be greeted by your friendly Expedition Team. They’ll prepare you for the exciting days ahead. But their first priority is taking you through important health and safety principles to ensure the health and safety of you and your fellow explorers throughout the cruise.

    With that, we’re off! MS Spitsbergen will set sail from Glasgow, heading first toward the Irish Sea as we prepare to visit Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man before setting a course for the beautiful Scottish isles.

    Stretch your legs on deck and explore the different areas of the ship, your home-away-from-home for the next 13 days. Enjoy your first dinner in one of the ship’s excellent restaurants—one of many more delicious meals to come. Raise your glass and join the Captain and crew in a toast to an enjoyable expedition.

    This is an expedition cruise, so please note that the order of stops may change, depending on local circumstances.

    Day 1
    Glasgow (Greenock), Scotland

    Setting sail from the stylish city of culture

  • Day 2
    Belfast, Northern Ireland

    Charming industrial capital

    Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast is an industrial-yet-elegant city and the famous birthplace of the Titanic. An entire Titanic Quarter has been dedicated to the doomed ship. It’s an experience not to be missed. Walk along the Maritime Mile, a waterfront trail that will give you a sense of Belfast’s proud seafaring history.

    Elegant Victorian architecture abounds in the city. Enjoy a peaceful stroll around the cobbled streets of the Cathedral Quarter. Formerly known for trade and warehouses, the area has transformed into a young and fashionable neighborhood. St. Anne’s Cathedral sits in the heart of the quarter. Pop inside to view its beautiful interior and gorgeous mosaics.

    Cut south through the city center to Donegall Square and take a tour of City Hall, a historical landmark with an impressive collection of stained-glass windows. The beautiful façade of the majestic Grand Opera House sits nearby, designed by Frank Matcham. Foodies, prepare! There are plenty of tasty treats to be had at the award-winning St. George’s Market, where you can sample local gin and whisky and pick up some handicrafts.

    History buffs, don’t skip the Ulster Museum. The Botanic Gardens right next door are a beautiful example of Victorian-era glasshouses, filled with exotic plant species. Take a stroll around the grounds of Queen’s University Belfast in the leafy Queen’s Quarter and then mosey around the neighborhood shops, cafés, and bars.

    Visit the delightful Belfast Castle on the outskirts of the city. While you’re there, walk up Cave Hill for fantastic views over the city and the sea.

    • Included Castle Espie Wetlands Centre
    Day 2
    Belfast, Northern Ireland

    Charming industrial capital

  • Day 3
    Peel, Isle of Man

    Celts, castles, and kippers

    Approaching Peel, on the Isle of Man, you’ll immediately notice the imposing ruins of Peel Castle looming over the port. This mighty fortress will give you a taste of what you’ll experience on this enigmatic island kingdom, situated between England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The Manx are proud of their independent status, which you can see in the three-legged triskelion, a Celtic symbol, wherever you go.

    The seaside port town of Peel was the 14th-century capital of the island and seat of the King of Mann. Winding lanes of merchants’ houses bear witness to the industries of yesteryear, when fishing schooners were built here and traded from Ireland to Shetland.

    Visit Peel Castle, built by Viking King Magnus Barefoot, dated from the 11th century, and feel the history beneath your feet. There are many building ruins within its huge walls, as well as the restored 13th-century cathedral of St. German. Head down into the crypt below, but keep your eyes open for Moddey Dhoo, the ghost dog said to haunt the castle!

    Vintage bikes and cars are on display in several museums in town, a nod to the high-speed racing carried out on the island. And did you know the Isle of Man is famous for its distinctive split kippers (smoked herring)? You can try them at The Kipper House, a traditional smokehouse near the harbor.

    Another must-see museum is the House of Manannan, a homage to the mythical sea god Manannán mac Lir, for whom the island is named, along with an exhibition of isle’s Celtic, Viking, and maritime history. Here, you’ll see the replica of a Viking longboat, Odin’s Raven, which was sailed here from Norway, and visit a traditional Celtic roundhouse. The experience is a feast of sights, sounds, and even smells!

    • Included Isle of Man Beach Cleaning
    Day 3
    Peel, Isle of Man

    Celts, castles, and kippers

  • Day 4
    Islay, Scotland

    Land of Scottish Whisky

    Heighten your spirit of discovery on this island, famed for its whisky, wildlife, and woolen garments.

    The Isle of Islay isn’t called ‘whisky island’ by coincidence. There are nine working distilleries here, and their peaty single malts are sold around the world. One of the larger Scottish Isles, there are 130 miles of coastline here, along with numerous quiet, sandy beaches.

    History abounds on Islay, with ancient monoliths and a stone circle showing traces of inhabitants on the island during the Neolithic period. Islay later became known as the ‘Lordship of the Isles’. Explore the enigmatic settlement at Finlaggan, the island’s most important archeological site, where you can even spot a number of Celtic crosses.

    Islay is also a wildlife paradise, with over 200 species of birds. These include oystercatchers, gannets, terns, shags, and cormorants, as well as buzzards, Hen Harriers, and even Golden Eagles. From the beaches, dolphins and basking sharks are sometimes seen, and you might even see otters if you are patient.

    Delve into the delights of the charming little town of Bowmore, where there are shops, an interesting round church, plus several cozy pubs and restaurants. It’s probably the only place in the world with ‘Hebridean pizza’—pronounced as ‘peat-za’—topped with crab and lobster.

    Arts and crafts abound in Bowmore, and you can visit potters, quilters, and artists in their workshops Visit Islay Woolen Mill, near Bridgend, which made tartan clothes for Mel Gibson in Braveheart, and Liam Neeson’s kilt in Rob Roy.

    No trip to Islay would be complete without a visit to one of its famous distilleries. Bruichladdich, Laphroaig, Bunnahabhain, Ardbeg, and Bowmore are among the best known.

    • Included Islay Coastal Walk 
    Day 4
    Islay, Scotland

    Land of Scottish Whisky

  • Day 5
    Oban, Scotland

    Expect the unexpected

    The great thing our expedition ship and team of enthusiastic experts is that we don’t stick to a rigid schedule. Instead, we make the most of local opportunities.

    We could head over to Oban, for example. Sometimes called the ‘Gateway to the Isles’, this small town is a busy fishing port. In its harbor, you can often see otters, dolphins, and seals. A 20-minute walk from town passes beaches and woodland to reach the castle Dunollie, ancient seat of the Clan Chiefs. Fancy a wee dram? The tiny Oban Distillery is one of the oldest in Scotland.

    Conditions at the time might lead us to a different destination. In that case, you could find yourself heading ashore on a small boat (RIB) to explore an area that is off the beaten track and which few others ever visit. Loch Sunart, for example, is a beautiful seawater loch. As a Marine Protected Area, the clear waters shelter a rich ecosystem and are a stronghold for otters. This is also a great place for spotting dolphins and porpoises.

    Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull, is another option for us.. Instantly recognize this charming fishing port by its brightly colored Georgian houses lining the waterfront. The small town is packed with cafés, restaurants, and handicraft shops, along with a whisky distillery.

    Beautiful places abound for you to explore in this sublime and untamed region. Wherever we go, rest assured that our Expedition Team knows western Scotland like the back of its hand, so trust them to organize the best possible experience. After all, on a Hurtigruten Expedition Cruise, you can expect the unexpected. That’s what makes our cruises so special!

    • Included Oban Walking Tour
    Day 5
    Oban, Scotland

    Expect the unexpected

  • Day 6
    Isle of Iona & Treshnish Isles (Scotland)

    Pilgrims and Puffins

    World famous for its religious connections, Iona was settled in 563 AD by the Irish missionary, St Colomba. The much-restored Abbey remains a place of pilgrimage and peace.  Wide views from the beach, known as “The Bay at the Back of the Ocean,” stretch west towards the Outer Hebrides.

    We will explore the Treshnish Isles, a group of distinctive volcanic islands that are home to a wealth of wildlife, from nesting puffins to colonies of kittiwakes, razorbills, guillemots and Atlantic grey seals.

    Fingal’s Cave, immortalized by Mendelssohn’s glorious “Hebrides Overture,” is on the cave-riddled isle of Staffa, one of Scotland’s most famous islands.  The basalt columns here are a northern extension of the Giant’s Causeway. Discovered by the Vikings and noted in 1772 by Sir Joseph Banks, the island has been visited by Queen Victoria, Sir Walter Scott and Samuel Johnson. Staffa is best viewed from the sea where the color of the water within the cave and the rising columns are at their most impressive

    • Included Self-Guided Exploration of Iona Abbey
    Day 6
    Isle of Iona & Treshnish Isles (Scotland)

    Pilgrims and Puffins

  • Day 7
    Loch Scavaig and Isle of Canna, Scotland

    Lost worlds and ancient island artifacts

    Beneath the dramatic peaks of the Cuillin Mountains, Loch Scavaig, on the Isle of Skye, leads to one of the most beautiful and dramatic freshwater bodies in Scotland: Loch Coruisk. Painted by Joseph Mallord William Turner and a popular destination for the Victorians, this powerful and romantic landscape will get your heart racing.

    Walking boots are a must, given the sometimes soggy conditions. Even so, there are several great walks running alongside the loch. The name ‘Coruisk’ means ‘Cauldron of Water’. You might feel like you’re in an epic fantasy film as you set foot upon its shores. Surrounded on three sides by craggy peaks, you may get the feeling of being in a lost world. As the poet Lord Tennyson described it, it’s “the wildest scene in the Highlands”.

    After visiting Loch Coruisk, we’ll head to the peaceful island of Canna, the westernmost island in the Inner Hebrides. At only about 4 and a half miles long and a mile wide, Canna is the perfect place to get in touch with nature.

    History buffs, look out for prehistoric fortifications and abandoned settlements. Also, challenge yourselves to find the carved Celtic cross and the ‘grave of the King of Norway’. Don’t miss Canna House, which as a whisky collection retrieved from a 1940s shipwreck, and relax in its lovely walled gardens.

    Serene and peaceful, this island haven promises enchanting scenery and wonderful wildlife. Canna’s coastline supports thousands of pairs of breeding seabirds, so bring your binoculars and explore this sublime, rocky location.

    Enjoy a ‘cuppa’ and cake at the local café and browse handicrafts made by members of the community in the island shop, only a short walk from the pier. Then we’ll return to the ship for the evening meal.

    • Included Canna Nature Landing
    • Included Loch Scavaig Landing and Hike
    Day 7
    Loch Scavaig and Isle of Canna, Scotland

    Lost worlds and ancient island artifacts

  • Day 8
    St. Kilda, Hirta Island, Scotland

    Reclaimed by nature

    One word sums up the tiny, rocky St. Kilda: Wild. As such, our visit to this storm-tossed archipelago—whose sea cliffs and the boiling seas surrounding it will take your breath away—totally depends on the weather.

    Visiting St. Kilda is an unforgettable experience. This UNESCO double World Heritage Site is the jewel in the crown of the National Trust for Scotland The outlying stacks and islands, which are the remains of a volcanic crater, provide ledges for thousands of nesting seabirds. What’s more, minke whales are sometimes seen in the swirling waters surrounding the rocky outcrops.

    Once home to Britain’s most remote island community, in 1930, after 4,000 years of continuous habitation, the people living on St Kilda’s Hirta Island were evacuated at their own request. The tiny museum that remains is a record of how hard life was on this exposed island.

    Once you set foot on St. Kilda, you’ll soon see that the island is far from deserted. It’s home to a multitude of seabirds, including over 60,000 pairs of Northern Gannets—the second largest gannet colony in the world! There’s a good chance you’ll spot many other seabirds as well, including Atlantic puffins, northern fulmars, common guillemots, and black-legged kittiwakes. You’ll see why St. Kilda is considered one of the most important seabird colonies in Europe.

    Birdlife aside, you might spot other island inhabitants, as well. An ancient breed of sheep, the Soay sheep, lives wild here, as do a number of other rare species, including the St. Kilda mouse and the St. Kilda Wren. See if you can spot them!

    Explore the abandoned village and see the distinctive ‘cleits’, circular stone buildings used to store peat, eggs and smoked puffins. Then head back to MS Spitsbergen and its nicer dining options.

    • Included St. Kilda Nature Landing
    Day 8
    St. Kilda, Hirta Island, Scotland

    Reclaimed by nature

  • Day 9
    Stornoway, Lewis & Harris (Scotland)

    Capital of the Outer Hebrides

    Originally a Viking settlement, Stornoway is the main town of the Western Isles and capital of the Isle of Lewis & Harris, the largest and most northerly island in the Outer Hebrides.  A bustling harbor and waterfront with museums and art galleries are overlooked by handsome Lews Castle, which we invite you to explore with us. Further afield are the mills and cottages where the famously durable Harris Tweeds are woven. There are also tiny folk museums, the world-famous Callanish Standing Stones, and the mysterious Carloway Broch - the best-preserved fort in Scotland dating back more than 2,000 years

    • Included Lews Castle Walk
    Day 9
    Stornoway, Lewis & Harris (Scotland)

    Capital of the Outer Hebrides

  • Day 10
    Kirkwall, Orkney

    Whisky galore

    Fresh, clean air; friendly people; cozy little shops and pubs—welcome to Kirkwall, Orkney’s largest town. This old Norse settlement can trace its roots back to the Vikings, and there’s plenty here to explore.

    First off, you might like to take a wander around town and get your bearings. Kirkwall may be the biggest town of all the Scottish islands, but it’s still compact and easily to cover by foot. The cathedral is quite grand for such a small place. You can’t miss it! Made from the local, distinctive, red sandstone, St. Magnus Cathedral was built in the 12th century and is named after a local pacifist, who is entombed in one of the interior pillars.

    Next, head over to the adjacent Earl’s Palace, where the ruins of a Renaissance-style palace are both impressive and atmospheric. In the mood for a coffee and some cake? Head next door to Reel, a café and music shop that serves hot drinks, small bites to eat, and local ales.

    Speaking of alcohol, there are three distilleries here in Kirkwall, but only two of them make whisky. The Highland Park Distillery is perched on the southern edge of town and claims Viking descendance. Scapa Distillery, is just outside town to the south and overlooks Scapa Flow. The third distillery makes … gin! The Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin Distillery uses a special variety of the angelica flower brought to the islands by the Vikings, according to local legend.

    Of course, if you’d rather just relax for awhile and sample a few drinks, head over to the Royal Cask, inside the Orkney Hotel. This lovely stone bar serves over a thousand different kinds of whisky. Remember to leave time to visit the Orkney Museum, which tells the fascinating saga of Orkney, from the Stone Age to the present day.

    • Included Kirkwall on Foot
    Day 10
    Kirkwall, Orkney

    Whisky galore

  • Day 11
    Fair Isle, Shetland Islands

    A Scenic Stop for Birds

    Remote and lonely Fair Isle has high red-sandstone cliffs, gentle rolling fields, and is a vital stop for migrating birds. A permanent bird observatory was established here in 1948. Synonymous with unique knitwear with geometric designs possibly of Spanish or Scandinavian origin, the island also boasts a mini “Lighthouse Keepers” golf course and a friendly, self-sufficient population.

    • Included Fair Isle Island Visit
    Day 11
    Fair Isle, Shetland Islands

    A Scenic Stop for Birds

  • Day 12
    Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland

    The center of Scotland’s Shetland Islands

    Welcome to Mainland, the main island of the Shetlands. At just over 100  miles off the coast of Great Britain, these are Scotland’s most northerly inhabited isles. Today, we’ll visit the handsome town of Lerwick, which is also the islands’ capital. Founded in the 17th century as a fishing port. Now, Lerwick is a friendly, bustling town with handsome Victorian architecture set amid stunning scenery.

    On foot, you’ll find Lerwick to be a compact, hilly town with a single shopping street: Commercial Street. This might seem odd for a ‘capital’, but remember, Shetland is like Scotland in miniature—only around 7,000 people live here. Explore the narrow, pedestrian streets the lead off Commercial Street and you’ll find small shops selling everything from Shetland whiskies and boiled sweets to wool sweaters and locally made fudge.

    The old waterfront is still active with working fishing boats and visiting yachts and. Here, you’ll also find the Shetland Museum. Inside the museum, there’s a fascinating overview of the archeological richness of the islands, including artifacts and a model of the famous Jarlshof prehistoric archaeological site in the south of the island.

    Take a stroll over to Fort Charlotte, a five-sided fort built during the First Anglo-Dutch War of 1652. Not far away is the magisterial town hall, which looms over much of Lerwick and could almost be mistaken for a castle. Its inside is just as splendid, with amazing stained-glass windows that tell the tale of Shetland.

    This wider island boasts some of Shetland’s most attractive scenery and an extraordinary concentration of archeological sites, including two remarkable Iron Age villages only a short distance from Lerwick. The Shetland Crofthouse Museum is also well worth a visit. It gives you a taste of how tough life was on these isles for crofters (aka smallholders) not too long ago.

    • Included Lerwick Walking Tour with Fort Charlotte
    Day 12
    Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland

    The center of Scotland’s Shetland Islands

  • Day 13
    Bergen, Norway

    The City of Seven Mountains

    Estimated time of arrival is 8:00 AM

    Today we bid farewell to one another as our Scottish Isles Whisky and Wildlife discovery cruise concludes in Bergen. After disembarking MS Spitsbergen, it’s definitely worth spending some time exploring this Norwegian coastal gem.

    If you have some time available, we recommend you book our optional Post-Program. On this tour, you’ll ben driven along the German pier, Bryggen, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and continue through the city and suburbs of Bergen to Troldhaugen—the former home of musical composer Edvard Grieg. Continue the tour with a visit to the unique Fantoft stave church and then enjoy an overnight hotel stay.

    Founded in 1070 B.C., Bergen was Norway’s capital for many years, given its perfect location as the gateway port for Hanseatic trade with the rest of Europe. Norway’s second-largest city has kept much of its local character, history, and charm.

    No visit to Bergen is complete without setting foot in the historic Bryggen district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with distinctive wooden wharves. You’ll find the area full of small boutiques selling artisanal handicrafts. Opposite Bryggen is Bergen’s famous fish market, which includes stalls cooking sumptuous fresh seafood right in front of you.

    Your Scottish island adventure aboard the MS Spitsbergen is sure to have been amazing. What better way to round off your trip than taking the funicular up to Mount Fløyen for spectacular views of the acclaimed seven mountains, the port, and the sea beyond!

    Day 13
    Bergen, Norway

    The City of Seven Mountains

Departures

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What's Included

Included in Your Expedition

Expedition Cruise

  • Expedition cruise in the cabin of your choice
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including beverages (house beer and wine, sodas, and mineral water) in restaurant Aune
  • Complimentary tea and coffee
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi on board. Be aware that we sail in remote areas with very limited connection. Streaming is not supported.
  • Complimentary reusable water bottle to fill at onboard water refill stations
  • English-speaking Expedition Team who organizes and guides activities, both on board and ashore
  • Range of included activities

Onboard activities

  • Experts from the Expedition Team present detailed lectures on a variety of topics
  • Use of the ship’s Science Center, which has an extensive library and advanced biological and geological microscopes
  • The Citizen Science program, which allows guests to contribute to current scientific research projects
  • The onboard professional photographer will give tips and tricks for taking the best landscape and wildlife photos
  • The ship has hot tubs, a sauna with a view, and an indoor gym
  • Participate in informal gatherings with the crew, such as daily recaps and the next day’s preparations

Landing activities

  • Escorted landings with small boats (RIBs)
  • Loan of boots, trekking poles, and all equipment needed for the activities
  • Complimentary wind- and water-resistant expedition jacket
  • Expedition photographers help you configure your camera settings

Not Included In Your Expedition

  • International flights
  • Travel protection
  • Baggage handling
  • Optional shore excursions with our local partners

Notes

  • All planned activities are subject to weather and ice conditions
  • Excursions and activities are subject to change
  • Please ensure you can meet all entry and boarding requirements
  • No gratuities are expected
Longyearbyen, Svalbard - MS Spitsbergen
Photo: Genna Roland
A large ship in the water
A large bed in a room
Your Ship

MS Spitsbergen

Year built 2009
Year of refurbishment 2016
Shipyard Estaleiro Navais de Viana do Castelo (POR)
Passenger capacity 180
Beds 243
Car capacity 0
Gross tonnage 7,344
Length 100.54 m
Beam 18 m
Speed 14.5 knots
Longyearbyen, Svalbard - MS Spitsbergen
Photo: Genna Roland

MS Spitsbergen will take you on a cruise beyond the ordinary. She cruises along the Norwegian coast from September to May and becomes part of our Global Expedition sailings the rest of the year.

Read more about MS Spitsbergen

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Photo: Stefan Dall / Hurtigruten
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